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Rules for dating in the digital age

Modern dating has new tools and new rules.

On Tinder, OkCupid, or any one of dozens of other digital dating apps and websites, every photo, comment, swipe or text is a fresh opportunity to judge and be judged. It can be tough for singles to know how to navigate.

There are some obvious guidelines for good behavior (No, you shouldn't Tinder on your dates. But we'll get to that.) And some less obvious questions of online romantic etiquette (When should you move offline?)

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Emma Tessler is the cofounder and COO of Dating Ring, a matchmaking company.
CBS News

For tips this Valentine's season, CBS News reached out to Emma Tessler, cofounder of the digital matchmaking company Dating Ring, which was created, she said, "to make the online dating experience a little bit less terrible."

The profile: Be brief, honest and keep your clothes on.

"People write way too much," Tessler says of online daters filling out profiles on sites like OkCupid. "It's a little presumptuous. Nobody wants to read that much about you before they've met you."

It's trite but true: Be yourself. "And don't try to be generic yourself. Like, 'Every Friday night I could be watching Netflix or going out.' Everybody does that. That's not interesting. Say something unique."

When picking profile photos, avoid an overabundance of confusing group shots. Instead, Tessler suggests posting several relatively current photos of yourself. "Don't put pictures from different eras of your life so nobody can tell what you actually look like."

And if you have to post a self portrait, skip the ones you snapped in the bathroom mirror.

"There's this huge abundance of bathroom selfies," Tessler said. "I don't know why you would chose to take it in the bathroom. You can see the toilet in the background. And the lighting's really terrible. Definitely don't do that."

Getting offline: Be quick about it.

You get the mutual match on a mobile dating app like Tinder. How many messages should you swap before you meet for a date in the real world?

"You ask them out right away," Tessler advises. "Just say, 'Hey this is fun. Do you want to take this off Tinder?' Because everyone wants to get off Tinder. No one's going to be like, 'No, I'd rather message forever.'"

Vetting your date: Too much Googling can trip the creepy alarm.

It's good to make sure your date is a real person, and that they aren't wanted by the law, but Tessler says keep the pre-date Internet stalking to a minimum.

"The problem is, you cannot ever bring it up to them that you've vigorously stalked them. And that gets so tough because I feel like you'll forget what you learned about them in person and what you learned about them online."

On the date, stay offline.

Your date gets up from the table; you check your phone. The notifications from your dating apps are screaming from your lock screen. But resist the urge to peek. Save them for after the date.

"I'm sure everyone does it, but you shouldn't do it. Don't do it," Tessler says of Tindering or the like in such situations. "Because you're going to get yourself in trouble. Murphy's law. Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong."

Texting after the date: How soon is too soon?

There are a lot of rules out there people like to swear by. Wait three days after a date to send a message so she won't think you're desperate? Wait a week so he knows you're in high demand? Tessler disagrees. She says it's perfectly fine to text that same night.

"Don't text as you're walking away, but if you want to text that night or the next morning just to say 'I had a nice night,' or to reference something that you talked about, I think that's reasonable."

Make it official: Deactivate.

So you really hit it off -- great! You've lost count of how many dates you've been on and things are getting serious. Time to shut down the online dating accounts? It depends on the couple -- but make sure you're both on the same page.

"Have a conversation about it, like, 'Hey, I don't know if we're ready to be exclusive, but I'm ready to not be OkCupiding any more,'" Tessler says.

"It's like a nice baby step in between girlfriend-boyfriendhood."

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    Alexander is a digital reporter for CBSNews.com. He previously worked as a multimedia reporter for POLITICO, where he covered the 2012 presidential campaign.